Good morning from Augusta, where we’ll learn a lot more about the fate of Maine’s new ranked-choice voting law between now and next week. The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee meets today to discuss how to implement the system, with legislative leaders hoping that the Senate and House can finalize plans during a special session next Monday.

It’s a significantly new voting method that is supposed to benefit both candidates and voters. Enacted by voters in a November 2016 citizen initiative referendum, the law calls on voters in elections for the Legislature, governor and Congress to choose multiple candidates in order of their preference. A winner is declared if a majority of voters picks a certain candidate as their first choice but if not, the candidate with the lowest share of first-place votes is eliminated and second-place votes for that candidate are reallocated. That process would be repeated until a candidate wins 50 percent of the votes in that round of counting. The law is set to be tested first in next year’s elections.

However, the law appears to run afoul of the Maine Constitution. That document is clear that legislative and gubernatorial elections in Maine can be won by pluralities of voters, which means a candidate wins more votes than the others in the race, but not necessarily a majority. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an unanimous advisory opinion to that effect in May. In recent gubernatorial elections, candidates have won with pluralities, not majorities, because at least three names appeared on the ballot. Proponents of ranked-choice voting want legislators to find a way to fix the constitutional problem, while opponents say it’s enough to keep ranked-choice voting from ever being implemented. Supporters also note that the constitution does not mandate pluralities to win primaries and federal elections.

The Legislature was unable to fix the problem earlier this year. A Democratic proposal to amend the Maine Constitution by removing the plurality clause deadlocked in the Senate, 17-17, and a Republican bill to kill ranked choice voting altogether couldn’t survive the Democratic-controlled House. Both of those bills were carried over until next year’s legislative session but could be dealt with next week when the Legislature returns for a special session.

A third option to fix the law will be the subject of debate today. Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, has proposed LD 1646, which would limit ranked-choice voting to primary elections for legislative, congressional and gubernatorial offices and to general and special elections for Congress. In other words, the bill would eliminate the use of ranked-choice voting in general elections for governor, state senator and state representative. That bill is up for public hearings beginning at 10 a.m. today in the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. You can find the link to listen in by clicking here.

The urgency to fix the law is real. With 10 Democrats and a growing number of Republicans already competing in the June 2018 gubernatorial primary, ranked choice voting and how it could change the face of elections in Maine is on course for a major test — if it survives that long.


Maine state Treasurer Terry Hayes kicks off her campaign for governor

Independent Hayes, who indicated in April she will launch a gubernatorial campaign to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2018, will make it official today. Hayes, 58, surprised many when she became the first credible candidate in the race. As a former Democrat who left the party to attract enough Republican support to be elected to two terms as treasurer, Hayes has across-the-aisle appeal.

Since her announcement the race has attracted more than a dozen other candidates, including fellow independent Alan Caron, a former town planner and communications consultant from Freeport who has been president of Envision Maine since 2009. Hayes has morning and afternoon press conferences scheduled in Portland and Bangor, respectively.


Reading list

  • Susan Collins put an end to speculation about her immediate future by announcing Friday that she will not run for governor in 2018. Her decision to remain in the Senate set off a scramble for frontrunner status in the gubernatorial race and likely spurred at least two potential candidates to lean toward entering the Republican primary. It also caused senators on both side of the aisle in Washington to breathe a sigh of relief. Collins remained in the limelight on Sunday, when she criticized President Donald Trump’s executive order to eliminate Affordable Care Act subsidies as a harmful act against “vulnerable” people.
  • William Cohen warns that Trump’s ‘fact free’ style could cause lasting harm to the presidency. The Bangor native, former member of both chambers of Congress and former secretary of defense told an audience at the University of Maine on Friday that the Republican president’s penchant for taunting political foes and world leaders could cause lasting damage to the presidency and the nation.
  • There’s a reason there are dogs on the wall at “the Wave,” Bangor’s best dive bar. Emily Bunham of the BDN tells the delightful story of “Bar Hounds,” a mural by artist Constance Depler Coleman at the New Waverly, a charming establishment just a short stumble from the BDN’s main office.

No triskaidekaphobia here

The number 13 plays an important role in my life. I wear it on my jersey or jacket when I umpire baseball games. The Red Sox last won the World Series in 2013.

My brother, brother-in-law and father-in-law celebrate birthdays on the 13th of three different months. A dear friend celebrated his birthday on Friday the 13th this month.

It’s my wife’s favorite number, for personal reasons but also — I suspect — because she is a teen librarian and age 13 is when people become interesting to her.

The number has extra significance today, as it is our 13th wedding anniversary. I checked Hallmark to learn that lace is the traditional gift for the 13th anniversary and that textiles are the modern gift.

Textiles?

I’m enthusiastic about lace (on her, not me), but textiles? I would think that the 13th anniversary would prompt something more magical, like dark crystals or a love potion. I suppose I could get her a rabbit’s foot, but she hates to waste anything, so we would probably have to eat the rest of the rabbit as our anniversary dinner. We both like rabbit, but …

As you can see, I am floundering here, dear readers. What do you think I should do for this special anniversary? I have until midnight to act on your suggestions. Here’s my soundtrack. Here’s hers. — Robert Long

What more could a girl ask for than a mention in the Daily Brief? — Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.